Sunday, January 22, 2006


Chapter 9 - Dragon Barque

In an early draft of this novel, Za'dar was startled by the barking of a dog. A reader pointed out "that's all very well, but are there dogs in Talislanta?" No, there are not. That's one of the things that make writing a fantasy novel so difficult. In Talislanta, the flora and fauna must be different. There are birds, but they're called Avir. There's a draft animal like a horse, but it's called an Equus and has six legs. For consistency, I had to leave dogs out. I suppose I could have called them Canem and left it at that.

Fantasy leaves you with a challenge of metaphor. You can get around a lot of it by using nonsense phrases that sound as though they mean something. "Za'dar, your plan isn't worth a kwintsag in a possnots bush." For various reasons, that's not an approach I like.

A better way is to use elements that have meanings even though the reader may not be aware of those meaning, such as references to gods and places that are part of the story, even if they are not explicitly in the story. That's the approach I've used whenever possible. It helps that Talislanta is a very rich setting, and that there's a wealth of speculation and discussion to draw upon in the archives of the Talislanta Yahoo Group.

Sometimes, though, you need to make your own metaphors. It takes a little longer, but that's the method I prefer. The story about the Rahastrans in chapter 2 is an example. It tells you what it means (or might mean) that someone is a Rahastran. And it serves another purpose. The world of Talislanta is strange. Instincts that we have from our familiar world aren't always relevant to Talislanta. No, in this world, something stranger than anything you've ever seen before lies just around the next bend of the river. When you use familiar names, your readers know what to expect, and that is not appropriate to the Talislanta setting.

To float down the river like a bug clinging to a pod is one thing. But if that pod happens to be an Eelyrind pod, and the bug happens to be a sniper bug, well the meaning is very different. Hence the previous chaper and the first line of this one. It's my way of having a little fun.

3 Comments:

Blogger Brad the Gorilla said...

For some strange reason, I am reminded of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This is a good thing.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

Equs do not have six legs! Equs are lizard-like horses, or horse-like lizards, your choice.

Erd have six legs, but they're like buffalo with elephant/hippo legs.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

All right, all right, you win the "catch the author in a Talislanta mistake" award.

4:26 PM  

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